Political Animal


May 10, 2013 10:20 AM The Political Prisoner

By Ed Kilgore

I didn’t see this coming, but should have: now that they’ve “proved” the Obama administration deliberately avoided stopping, and then covered up, a Jihadi terrorist attack in Benghazi!, now it’s time for some conservatives to double back and begin rehabilitating Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the auteur behind the execrable video Innocence of Muslims. This fine artist, who is in federal prison for multiple violations of the probation he was under from an earlier conviction for bank fraud, is being treated as the “patsy” who took the fall for the administration’s efforts to blame the violence in Libya on protests against Nakoula’s video when it knew full well it was the evil Muslims Nakoula was trying to warn us against who were really at fault. Some Twitter warriors have taken to calling Nakoula a “political prisoner.”

But the real goal in this aborning revisionist campaign is made clear in the lede of Rich Lowry’s Politico op-ed I linked to above:

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula deserves a place in American history. He is the first person in this country jailed for violating Islamic anti-blasphemy laws.

Ah, yes: in pursuing Nakoula (after “apologizing” for the offense he gave The Prophet), the Obama administration is executing the first phase of the imposition of Shariah Law on America. Newt warned us this would happen, and with only a lonely few protesting at the time (notably Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds, who called for Obama’s resignation over federal enforcement actions against Nakoula), it has already happened. After acknowledging the film-maker was entirely guilty of the charges against him, Lowry ties it all up in a nice bow:

This wasn’t a case of nailing Al Capone on tax evasion. As Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute points out, Al Capone’s underlying offense was racketeering and gangland killings. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s underlying offense wasn’t an underlying offense. He exercised his First Amendment rights.

Best we can tell, Nakoula, and his confederates who insisted on distributing his film throughout the Middle East, were not trying to “express” any “opinions” about Muhammad or Islam; they were trying to ignite a religious war. Whether or not there is some First Amendment right to do so, convicted felons who are in the process of aggressively violating the terms of their contingent freedom from incarceration have little grounds to complain Big Brother is punishing them for acting as a global agent provocateur.

But however you construe the constitutional issues, if any, raised by the prosecution of the perpetrator of Innocence of Muslims, conservatives should be ashamed to undertake, as Kevin Drum described it last year, “the martyrization of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.” It tells you a lot about the motives underlying the Benghazi! investigations in general. The targets aren’t just Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but anyone who deplores anti-Islamic bigotry and the construction of a new cold war in which Muslims are the new red menace.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Epicurus on May 10, 2013 10:31 AM:

    Ah, Rich "Sparklepants" Lowery (Liary?), a self-styled legal expert. What a crock...Lowery is a simpering ideologue, with a big platform. I put as much faith into his words as I would a snake handler. He's a bought-and-paid-for propagandist, and I choose to ignore his keyboard emissions. You should too...next up, we rehabilitate Nixon's reputation. Ooops, too late.

  • c u n d gulag on May 10, 2013 11:09 AM:

    Conservative POV:
    This man is a hero to us rightie 1st Amendment absolutists, for shouting "SHOOT THE F*CKING MUSLIMS IN THEIR F*CKING HEADS," in a crowded Mosque.

    A hero!

  • PTate in MN on May 10, 2013 11:22 AM:

    "I didn’t see this coming, but should have..."

    You know what else none of us saw coming but should have? That the internet would strengthen and legitimize conspiracy delusions. This kind of group paranoia was once kept on the fringe by the responsible people who had an understanding of reality. But with the Internet, people who believe crazy stuff can find their soulmates, get serious air time, and grow very rich spewing the crazy. After all, if two or three believe it, it must be true.

    The real threat, the national shame, is that Republicans have embraced the bats**t crazy, not that Benghazi is part of a master plot to impose Sharia Law.

  • Peter C on May 10, 2013 11:34 AM:

    I exercise in the mornings at the local Y here on the outskirts of Houston. I ride the exer-bikes which face a bank of 4 huge TVs which are tuned to FOX News, CNN, the local FOX station and another local news station. Sadly, the Y is as fair and balanced as FOX News. Happily, I have an i-pod and can listen to podcasts of Rachel Maddow instead. What I remember from the Benghazi incident as it was happening was that all 4 televisions were running reports about the violent reaction to Nakoula’s movie and showing footage of angry mobs in Cairo, but that Rachel was reporting that the government sources were saying that it seemed to be coordinated terrorism and not mob violence. The point is that the whole conservative media seemed to have ramped-up the ‘scary Muslim’ storyline, but that the government was slow getting on-board. Much of the coverage was that the administration was being ‘apologists’ and certainly not ‘standing up for our fundamental freedom’ to be gratuitously offensive to believers of other ‘unammurican’ religions. So the current hearings seem to me to be expressing Outrage! that some of the government believed and repeated what they heard on FOX. While I agree that basing policy on ‘facts’ from FOX is misguided and stupid, it never seemed as bad as a high crime or misdemeanor.

    Now, these are only my ‘after the fact’ impressions. Thankfully, none of the TVs ever have their sound on, so I can only read the crawlers and the graphics. But I’ve never understood the Benghazi! ‘controversy’.

  • Anonymous on May 10, 2013 11:55 AM:

    As a retired political asylum adjudication officer (DoJ and DHS) I offer the following for your consideration:

    Coptic Christians comprise 10%-12% of the population in Egypt and have led normal lives throughout nearly all the country. They occasionally suffer harassment, threats and attacks by militant Muslims and some feared this might increase with the change in government.

    Last year Egyptian Copts comprised the fourth highest number in the world applying for asylum in the US. A majority of cases were referred to deportation hearings where they were the fifth largest number facing an Immigration Judge. See US/DHS/CIS statistics.

    Most claims failed due lack of credibility or stories that did not reflect violence or threats that would rise to the level of persecution necessary for acceptance by the US programs for asylum and refugee status. Search on-line for [ Copts immigration attorney US asylum ]

    But were a US group to create a cheap, inflammatory movie certain to raise tensions and levels of violence in Egypt, surely the approval rate of Coptic Christians seeking protection in the US would rise dramatically. This appears to be the only reason for such a film having been created = a scam for immigration benefits.

  • Yastreblyansky on May 10, 2013 1:35 PM:

    This is really clarifying. Looks like the reason Republicans went nuts over this incident in the first place was in automatic-pilot defense of Nakoula and his "freedom", and the importance of Benghazi was to distract the public from all the places where Nakoula's little mashup really was the cause of much mayhem and violence. The reason Peter C. can't understand the story is that there isn't one, just as with Whitewater--they've tried to make one up but failed, nobody in the administration actually did anything wrong. So they just keep hinting that there is a story without telling it.

    Anonymous: Cui bono? Are you saying Nakoula did this out of sheer compassion for his fellow Copts, or was somebody going to pay him?

  • Doug on May 10, 2013 9:02 PM:

    Yastreblyansky, I, too, have never been able to figure how a conman, which is what Nakoula is, was going to make a profit by producing, and releasing, that video. While there was no doubt there would be violent reactions against the video, there was no guarantee that the video *would* produce violence directed against Copts, let alone *enough* violence to have asylum requests redefined. So then, what *was* the scam?
    And then I remember Nixon and his dirty tricks squads, Reagan's actions in regards to the hostages in Iran, the Bush lies about Iraq and the "swiftboaters" in 2004 and I wonder if there's possibly a connection between *those* type of activities and what Nakoula did.
    Is it beyond possible that the Republicans' focus on "Benghazi!!" is because the release of the video was timed to *provoke* the responses it did and when it did - three weeks from the election? I can picture that as a possible "swiftboating" scenario against President Obama. Which says something about either me or the Republicans, I'm not sure which.
    We know President Obama has consistently treated terrorists as criminals and terrorism as a crime; unlike the Republicans who seemingly view terrorism as something more dangerous than WWII, its' perpetrators as inhuman and thus only WAR is the proper response terrorist act.
    We also know that "swiftboating" is taking someone's perceived strength and turning it against them: "Obama may have gotten Osama, but his namby-pamby, treat'em like criminals schtick couldn't protect our Embassies and Consulates against raging *Muslim* mobs!"
    Does that even make sense? I mean, true, we're dealing with Republicans here, but still...
    Has anyone (DoJ, FBI, SEC)) looked for *any* connections between Issa and Nakoula? Were there *any* investigations of the financing? I'd imagine that if there *are* any links they'd be something along the lines of that "seven degrees from Kevin Bacon" thing; Nakoula to X to Y to Z to...who?
    It's a pity that the Republicans have degenerated so that such thoughts even occur to me (there *was* a time they wouldn't have). And I don't sit around wondering night and day about this, but when the topic comes up, I *do* wonder...

  • Crissa on May 11, 2013 1:06 AM:

    So the part where he scammed actors, film equipment, used Youtube against his probation, and his compatriots set up a 900 number to collect toll fees from the outrage was totally what, exactly?

    Probation violations only count for coloured folk?